During the October half term break we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at Greenwood Grange Holiday Cottages in Dorset.
A six hour non eventful drive from Norfolk, not helped by the wind from Storm Brian, brought us to our destination, broken by a couple of pit stops; Little Chef- adequate but never really hits the mark, and lunch at Blue Vinny, where we indulged ourselves in a deluxe lunch with more than substantial children’s portions.
On arrival at Greenwood Grange Holiday Cottages we were greeted at reception in a downpour and shown to our digs. The complex has 17 cottages in a walled in area, which has lovely gardens and a pond area. It is not entirely gated so you need to ensure you keep an eye on the kids. Casterbridge Cottage is small but perfectly formed and well located, opposite the swimming pool and friendly chickens. We had a thoughtful provision of breakfast essentials and tea, coffee and sugar.
With a double room, a room with bunks and one with 2 single beds, the accommodation was adequate for a family with younger children. However, we were a little pushed for space in view of the ages of our children ,10/10/11, as the room with the bunk beds was very small. The dining and lounge area was perfect for jigsaw making and watching of DVDs supplied from the laundry room. To me the laundry room, which had several washers and dryers, is a big plus as I always worry we might run out of clothing or have a muddy repeat of the Lake District ‘Bog Gate.’
The kids badgered us from the instant we arrived to go swimming. The pool is lovely. Male and female changing rooms both have baby changing facilities and the pool temperature is perfect. The pool room is very hot which is adequate for parents of tiny babies and toddlers but not so great for menopausal mummies watching from the side. Craig was most disappointed that to use the sauna he was looking forward to, he would have to pay £1 for 16 minutes. This caused a Daddy tantrum and refusal to fork out. The pool was too busy at times; we found before 8am and after 5 pm the quietest. As the weather was poor during our stay, 4 or 5 families often occupied the pool which was too many for the size of the pool.
It was decided that each family member would chose an activity a day so not to spend the week walking many miles and getting wet which is what seems to happen if Craig is left in charge. First day Craig got to choose and we went to Weymouth for a wander. Struck me as being very similar to Great Yarmouth but a little bit posher. We found a lovely little cafe called the Stone Pier Cafe Bar to shelter from the rain with a hot chocolate and laugh at the jet skiers falling in the sea. We also saw some penguins (AKA divers), which kept us entertained. We met some squirrels next to the North Fort who were very tame. The boys have decided it is their mission to tame the fat ones we have in our garden at home.
For lunch we headed to Portland Bill to the Lobster Pot in a gale and briefly took in the scenery and kite surfers, before venturing into this lovely cafe with the best sticky toffee pudding I have ever had. Ever. Ever.
Back at Greenwood Grange Holiday Cottages, the WIFI was temperamental at best and so we were forced to participate in old-fashioned fun with jigsaws and card games. Unfortunately I developed a jigsaw addiction and played until my neck was stiff, becoming very irritated if everyone else insisted on watching Die Hard and wouldn’t contribute. Swimming twice a day was compulsory. There was also a games room to keep the kids busy with table football and pool.
Monday was Lara’s day and she quite sensibly chose more indoor time for jigsaws and movies, as the weather was clearly not relenting. This made me realise that we have always been very lucky with the weather and it does impact significantly on activities in the UK as we tend to spend a lot of time outside. In the morning one of the reception staff visited to ensure we were settling in and to offer ideas of things to do if we were lacking. We also had a complaint lodged against us by the family in the house below us for the “loud banging and clomping noises “we made at 6am. Apparently we were so noisy they asked to be moved. But alas, there was no other accommodation available. Now anyone who knows our family will know how boring we are. We are in bed by 8 pm and although early risers are not noisy. Perhaps it was the banging of the jigsaw pieces at 6am while Lara and I tried to do the sky with our cups of loud splashing tea. It was very frustrating. The boys clearly sleep very soundly as were not awoken by our clumping and noise for another hour. The rest week was spent with lots of loud shushing trying to be quieter.
We popped out for a pub lunch at The Thimble Inn. Less Gastro and more pub and substantially less adequate sticky toffee pudding than the previous day.
Toby did fancy hiring bikes on Tuesday but as it continued to rain he opted for the Tank Museum. Now if you like Tanks, this is the place for you. Lots of boy toys and interactive displays for children and you could watch real live tanks drive around a muddy track shooting loud fake guns. Boys enjoyed it, girls less so. Glad to get back for my jigsaw. Added bonus was that Lara found a secret tiny shower room in our cottage that we hadn’t realised was there. Result.
Wednesday brought pumpkin carving at the farm with Shed, the retired Gardner followed by quad biking at Henley Hill Billies. Our instructor Kieron, was really patient with the kids who thoroughly enjoyed the experience and thought James’ day was definitely the highlight of the week. We had lunch at The Brace of Pheasants which was a lucky, find with delicious food and a 8/10 sticky toffee pudding.
Overall,Greenwood Grange Holiday Cottages is a pretty location just next to Thomas Hardy’s cottage, quiet and comfortable. The weather was not great but we had a lovely stay regardless. The pool, laundry room, chickens and jigsaws were a big draw. Advice to anyone planning a trip would be to pack fairy liquid and kitchen roll, shampoo and shower gel and pound coins if you want a sauna.
Don’t forget the very early checkout of 10 am. We were caught out and got in trouble for being 13 minutes late out due to failing to read our booklet thoroughly!
You can also take a look at the little video we made: